Nine Essential Additive Manufacturing Terms You Need to Know

From binder jetting and directed energy deposition to photopolymerization and powder bed fusion, the jargon around additive manufacturing can be challenging to keep straight. To help alleviate some of the confusion, Anova Innovations breaks down some of the most essential industry terms. For manufacturing veterans, this piece can be a useful refresher. For the newcomers, it can serve as a road map to better understanding your industry.

1. What is Additive Manufacturing?

Additive manufacturing (AM) is a broad term for any process in which a person or machine creates a part by adding, depositing, and/or layering material. These layers of material are typically metal, plastic, or steel. Nearly every step of the additive manufacturing process is computer-aided in order to produce highly intricate shapes. Common AM processes include:

  • Binder jetting
  • Directed energy deposition
  • Material extrusion
  • Material jetting
  • Sheet lamination
  • Vat polymerization

2. What is Conformal Cooling?

Conformal cooling is a process that uses conformal cooling channels (CCCs) to provide faster and more uniform cooling in a part. It allows part manufacturers to:

  • Reduce cycle times
  • Produce higher-quality parts
  • Boost productivity
  • Enable the use of bioplastics

3. What are Conformal Cooling Channels (CCCs)?

Conformal Cooling Channels (CCCs) follow the geometry and contours of a mold to provide uniform cooling. They’re built into a mold through additive manufacturing. CCCs stand in contrast with traditional straight-line cooling channels that are milled or drilled into a mold. Because straight-line cooling channels don’t follow the contour of a part, they have lower cooling efficiency for complex parts. Through a mold with CCCs, part manufacturers reduce warpage, increase productivity, and produce higher-quality products.

4. What is a Mold Cavity/Core?

A mold (tool) has two sides: a cavity and a core. Together, they make the shape of a part. The cavity (A-side) is the void inside the mold where the injection mold machine injects molten material, typically plastic. The cavity is also where a part gets its shape.

The core (B-Side) is typically the interior side of the part. It’s also the side of the mold with the ejection mechanism. After the plastic cools, the injection molding machine pulls the two sides apart to eject the finished part.

5. What is Injection Molding (Moulding)?

Injection molding is a process manufacturers use to produce high-volume parts. The process requires three main components: an injection press, a mold, and a clamp. The injection press, also known as an injection molding machine, injects molten materials (thermoplastic, glass, metal, plastic, etc.) into a mold. The mold clamp ensures the machined part (mold) doesn’t move during the process.

Once in the mold cavity, the material cools and hardens, and the part is complete. The primary advantage of injection molding is the ability to scale up production expeditiously.

6. What is Prototype Tooling?

Prototype tooling, also known as soft tooling or rapid tooling, is one of the most critical steps in product development. During this phase, engineers demonstrate how a new design will perform and identify necessary changes before production starts. They may begin this process with a simulation and then move on to create an actual prototype mold.

Prototype tooling follows many of the same steps production molding does. However, the output is much smaller and is primarily used to identify functional issues.

7. What is Production Tooling?

Production tooling, or just tooling, is the physical mass production of a product. Manufacturers will use a mold and inject the cavity and core with molten material, likely plastic. As it cools, this material takes the shape of a tool. Finally, the part is ejected from the mold.

8. What is a Reynolds Number?

Mold engineers use a Reynolds number to characterize a flow pattern. When the number is low, the flow tends to be laminar or streamlined. When the number is high, the flow is turbulent. When simulating molds, engineers typically have a target Reynolds number to evaluate its cooling efficiency.

In injection molds with conformal cooling channels (CCCs), mold manufacturers want a turbulent flow, rather than a laminar flow, for its superior ability to transfer heat.

9. What is Subtractive Manufacturing?

Subtractive manufacturing is the process of creating a part by removing layers of material (metal, plastic, or steel). Subtractive manufacturing requires computer numerical control (CNC) or electrical discharge machining (EDM) machines.

Subtractive manufacturing can produce a considerable amount of waste. Therefore, manufacturers now use it more for prototyping and producing low-volume parts and expensive components. Common types of subtractive manufacturing include:

  • CNC machining (boring, drilling, milling, turning, etc.)
  • Electrical discharge machining (EDM)
  • Laser cutting
  • Water jet cutting

Innovate with Anova

Whether in the prototyping or production stage, there is a lot to keep straight when it comes to additive manufacturing lingo. Further, finding a solution for a specific part can be challenging.

If you’re looking for 3D steel printing solutions that will minimize downtime and maximize production, you should contact Anova innovations. We specialize in applying advanced engineering principles in mold design and pioneering the strategic use of additive manufacturing. Our methods enable our clients to overcome traditional boundaries and propose innovative solutions that add value to your business. If you’re interested in learning more, reach out today.